Blog Post

Are Melody Beattie Books Good for Catholics?

melody beattieMFM asks: " Would the book THE LANGUAGE OF LETTING GO by Melody Beattie be something a Catholic should be reading?"

No. Melody Beattie is yet another New Age self-help guru who has put her own spin on the age-old New Thought idea that what the mind can conceive, the person can achieve - regardless of what God might will.

No question about it, she had a hard life. According to her website, she was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1948 to a father her left home when she was still a toddler. At the age of four, she was kidnapped by a stranger and although she was rescued the same day, the incident "set the tone" for a childhood that would be marked by the horrors of sexual abuse, which she received at the hands of a neighbor throughout her youth. Her mother "turned a blind eye" to the abuse and did nothing to help her.

"My mother was a classic codependent,” Melody recalls. “If she had a migraine, she wouldn’t take an aspirin because she didn’t do drugs.  She believed in suffering.”

Melody didn't like suffering and began to numb her pain with alcohol and then drugs. By the time she was 18, she was a junkie who ran with a rough crowd known as "The Minnesota Mafia" who robbed pharmacies to get their next fix. She was arrested several times and was eventually sent to rehab. While there, she claims to have experienced a "spiritual awakening" that occurred while she was on the lawn "smoking dope". The whole world turned a purplish color, sort of like a Monet painting. She had a kind of epiphany and told herself, " . . . (I)f I put half as much energy into doing the right thing as I had into doing wrong, I could do anything.”

She turned her life around, married a respected counselor who she thought was a reformed alcoholic and had two children. She eventually discovered that her husband had been drinking all along and her experience with this crisis eventually became her first best-selling book, Codependent No More published in 1986.

Her life was shattered once more when, in 1991, she lost her 12 year-old son Shane to a ski accident.

beattie bookBeattie has since written 15 books, including The Language of Letting Go. Although I haven't read this book, I've read quite a bit about her latest work, Make Miracles in 40 Days: Turning What You Have into What You Want in which she lays out a six-week action plan called the Miracle Exercise that is designed to bring about a self-transformation. She refers to a higher power or force or whoever a person believes in, so this isn't the kind of book a Catholic would read to be inspired in the Faith.

Here's how one reviewer describes it: "After completing a series of activities, we’ll establish what miracles we’d like to create, and then she’ll walk us through practicing this innovative exercise alone, with a partner, and even with our children. Beattie instructs us to be thankful for everything in our lives and for how we’re really feeling; we need to express gratitude for what we have and who we are, not just for our obvious blessings. It is crucial that we are grateful for recognizing what is upsetting and bothering us. Through acknowledging the pain that we’re feeling, we can excise any denial or resistance that is holding us back. As we progress over the forty days, instead of feeling lost, numb, or confused, we’ll become more conscious, aware, and alive. Our miracle will begin to materialize."

Learning how to be thankful for what we have, even the trials and sufferings, is certainly the right thing to do, but this attitude doesn't make things happen.  Our outlook on life can't do anything more than change the way things affect us. It can't "attract" miracles such as prosperity, health, romance, etc. This is classic New Age thinking.

Even more enlightening was something she said In this radio interview  where she criticized the old adage - "If you want to make God laugh, tell him what you want."

She calls that statement derogatory.  "I believe that when we have a vision of what we want, or a desire for something in our heart that's not going to hurt anyone, that's a good idea, I believe that's our higher power's way of showing us what we can have."

Just as an example of the subtly of the distortions of the Truth found in  New Age philosophies, consider what we read in Proverbs 4:23 when we're told to: "With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issueth out from it" (Douay). The word "issue" in Hebrew refers to boundaries or territories, implying that the "issues" that come forth from the heart are from God and are, therefore, the direction we are to follow in life.

At first glance, this seems to agree with what Beattie is saying; however, only the soul who is at least somewhat versed in the ways of the interior life knows that what she's neglecting to address is the very high probability that the heart could be corrupted. And when the heart is corrupted, so is everything that comes out of it. "With all watchfulness keep thy heart" means we must be on guard to keep our hearts pure and always open to the will of God so that He may fill us with right desires that lead us in right directions.

I'm sure Melody Beattie's life experiences lend a good deal of merit to her writing about codependence, but I'm not a fan of her personal philosophy and would therefore not recommend her work to Catholics.